The novel coronavirus confirmed that prediction. By April it was clear that not even a crisis as massive as the virus “has stopped the president from behaving like a cranky toddler” and that his toddler traits “have significantly hampered America’s response to the pandemic.”
You would think that it would be tough for the president’s behavior to get worse, and yet the #ToddlerinChief thread demonstrates that the answer is otherwise:
As bad as the third quarter of 2020 was, everything has worsened since Trump’s infection was announced Friday. The media coverage of his reported behavior since then highlights how his behavior echoes that of an irresponsible 2-year-old dauphin.
- The Daily Beast, Oct. 2: “Among White House staff and the re-election effort, some advisers were furious that Trump wasn’t talked out of attending a high-roller fundraiser at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club on Thursday night, after the White House already learned of his exposure to the virus, two administration officials said.”
- Bloomberg, Oct. 3: “The PCR test is more invasive … and the president has previously complained about how deep the nasal swab goes — remarking that there was ‘nothing pleasant about it.’ ”
- New York Times, Oct. 3: “President Trump at times told staff wearing masks in meetings to ‘get that thing off,’ an administration official said. Everyone knew that Mr. Trump viewed masks as a sign of weakness, officials said, and that his message was clear.”
- Vanity Fair, Oct. 3: “Three sources said Trump argued with his doctors on Friday after they told him he needed to be moved to Walter Reed. … Two sources said doctors gave Trump an ultimatum: he could go to the hospital while he could still walk, or doctors would be forced to take him in a wheelchair or on a stretcher at a later point if his health deteriorated.”
- Wall Street Journal, Oct. 4: “As the virus spread among the people closest to him, Mr. Trump also asked one advisor not to disclose results of their own positive test. ‘Don’t tell anyone,’ Mr. Trump said, according to a person familiar with the conversation.”
- Washington Post, Oct. 4: “[Trump’s physician Sean] Conley openly admitted to withholding truthful information about Trump’s plummeting blood-oxygen levels Friday, indicating he did so to put a positive spin on the president’s improving condition. … ‘I didn’t want to give any information that might steer the course of illness in another direction..’”
- New York Times, Oct. 4: “Alyssa Farah, a White House communications adviser, conceded that Dr. Conley had been speaking to an audience of one during his Saturday briefing. ‘When you’re treating a patient, you want to project confidence, you want to lift their spirits, and that was the intent,’ she said.”
- New York Times, Oct. 4: “The president has also been watching lots of television, even more than usual, and has been exasperated by coverage of Saturday’s calamitous handling of his medical information by Dr. Conley and Mr. Meadows.”
- Washington Post, Oct. 4: “Current and former Secret Service agents and medical professionals were aghast Sunday night at President Trump’s trip outside the hospital where he is being treated for the coronavirus, saying the president endangered those inside his SUV for a publicity stunt. … ‘Where are the adults?’ said a former Secret Service member.”
- Axios, Oct. 5: “After days of internal and external snafus as the virus spread through all levels of the White House, President Trump left his hospital suite just before 5:30 p.m. yesterday, and took an SUV ride outside the Walter Reed gates to wave at the supporters who have lined the road ever since he arrived Friday evening. … Two senior White House staffers said they thought the P.R. stunt was selfish, and compounded a weekend of horrible decisions.”
- Maggie Haberman, Oct. 5: “The president had wanted to be discharged from Walter Reed yesterday, but doctors weren’t okay with it. So the car ride became the compromise.”
- Vanity Fair, Oct. 5: “One area where the family seems united is over the president’s manic tweeting early Monday morning. After Trump sent out more than a dozen all-caps tweets, the Trump children told people they want Trump to stop. ‘They’re all worried. They’ve tried to get him to stop tweeting,’ a source close to the family told me.”
- New York Times, Oct. 5: “Mr. Trump did little to adhere to the narrative aides were hoping would emerge, one that would benefit him politically. In videos filmed by aides of Mr. Trump behind the scenes, intended to show him working, the president did not mention the hardship the virus had caused to others or that anyone had suffered greatly from it. Nor did he mention the White House staff members who had fallen sick.”
Few people are on their best behavior when they are sick. Trump, however, managed to act in an even more juvenile fashion than usual. He resisted going to the hospital, and he resisted necessary tests. His doctors felt compelled to lie to buck up his spirits. His boredom at Walter Reed led him to a public relations stunt that threatened to infect his Secret Service detail. He was injected with a variety of drugs that would have unclear effects on someone in his condition. And he made sure the White House was less than forthcoming about the timing and severity of his sickness. Oh, and he will be sick for some time to come.
The only comfort to draw is that none of this is playing well with the American people. If the polling data is accurate, Trump’s already poor position in the election has deteriorated further over the past week. With luck, the American people will only have four more months, rather than four years, of coping with a president possessing the emotional and intellectual maturity of a petulant 2-year-old. Otherwise, God help us all.